tv U.S. Navy and the Battle of New Orleans CSPAN November 16, 2013 1:00pm-2:12pm EST
anti-feminist. your questions for christina hoff sommers and join mark levin. next, author and historiany aii allen smith discusses the battle of new orleans in 1812. and he gives a detailed account of the battle. he argues that the navy's involvement was crucial to an american victory that was overshadowed by jackson's role in the battle this took place in anapolis, maryland. >> i'm the chair of the history department and it's my great pleasure to introduce tonight's speaker, dr. gene smith.
the chair of naval heritage that will be giving the second mcmullen power lecture of the navy and battle of new orleans. the mcmullen c-power lecture by the class of 1957 chair of naval herita heritage was introduced in 2011, to serve as the address at the naval history symposium, made possible by estates of bill daniel and the late dr. mcmullen. this honors dr. mcmullen by impressing the power of c-power on history. inside joke. tonight's speaker, dr. gene allen smith is a seventh distinguished naval historian to hold the chair of naval heritage
in the naval michigan's history department. gene comes from texas university in fort worth where he is serving as the director of texas studies. gene's research in teaching encompasses naval history and maritime history, and the war of 1812. gulf expansion as well. he is the coauthor ofight books the most repeat is "the slave's gamble: choosing sides on the early american battlefield." he is the editor of the university press's series new perspective -- perspectives on maritime history and nautical history. gene is the recipient of teaching awards at montana state university, billings and at tcu. before turning the podium over to dr. smith.
and this is really addressed our guests at the naval history symposium, i would like to put in a plug for the naval academy's magnificent seas, lakes and bay, the naval war of 1812 exhibit. and this seems only appropriate given the topic of tonight's lecture, this exhibit brings together two collections of art, artifacts and ship models from the private collection of mr. william koch and the public collection of the naval academy museum. if you have not yet visited. you should. you are in for a real treat. the exhibit can be reached through going through the second floor of sampson. without any other delay, join me in welcoming dr. smith. [ applause ]
>> okay, okay, okay, there we g go. [ applause ] >> you can tell i'm not from this area. i have a little different accent. i'm originally from the state of alabama. i have spent the last 20 years of my life in texas. so, i do have a hat and boots at home. i just didn't bring them up here. i did not think there would be much use for them. and when dr. ables mentioned the battle of how you say? new orleens? yeah, you call it nawlins or something different than that. i want to thank you all for taking the time this evening. i know the mid shipman have things they would probably rather be doing. annapolis is a great place to go out and see the town.
so you would probably rather be doing that, i appreciate you being here to hear something about the battle of in on mo and the war of 1812. a conflict for some people is not that important. but when you are in this part of the country, it's very important. so, before i begin i would certainly be remiss, if i did not offer a sincere heart-felt thanks to the bill daniels and dr. john mcmullen families of their generous support of the history department and of the mcmullen naval history symposium. it's their donations that make this event possible and we should all be thankful. i want to thank the class of 1957 of the u.s. naval academy. that funded and supported the class of 1957 chair and naval heritage and the class of 1957 post-docs, i still can't believe
that my name is associated with this fraternity of distinguish scholars, that i am the 7th. i'm convinced that 7 is a pretty lucky number. my birthday is on the seventh. when i was called and asked if i was interested in this job, it was on the seventh. so, you see, there's a recurring theme here. i'm thankful that i had this opportunity and i hope that i -- i only hope that i can live up to the example that these outstanding scholars have said. my colleagues in the history department, that's another story. i mean, they are an outstanding group of people, including my chair, richard ables that you have met. and the associate chair, commander mickey thaxton and then, the colleagues who helped to put on this meeting, professor lloyd bogel, and
commander chris rentfro and then all the lieutenants that you have seen whacking around, when you see them, thank them for their efforts. i mean, they are the ones that really make this thing work. the rest of us just sit around and try to act like we know what is going on. lastly, let me thank you for myself. i am very appreciateive to be here and i hope that i can do justice to the opportunity that i have been given here. so, my paper tonight is my talk tonight, is about something near and dear to my heart, it's the battle of new orleans. i'm currently working on a book on the battle of new orleans. as i have written eight books, seven of the books have touched on the battle in some form or fashion. i would like to start out by telling you a bit of a story. it was on january 8th, 1815, that general andrew jackson had a multi-racial hetrogenius rag
tag aassembssemblage of troops. and these forces clashed some nine miles south of new orleans adjacent to the mississippi river. within two hours, british killed and wounded had numbered more than 2000. i had a friend that was the curatoh of the national army museum in london and when i visited him, the demand he made was that we not talk about the battle of new orleans. when you go through the museum there, they do not even make reference to it. so, it's not a high point in british military history. but that episode, that battle
represented a turningpoint for american democracy, for the development of the united states and finally ended british aspirations for a renewed american colonization, andrew jackson became a hero and it was a shining moment for the country. throughout this commonly accepted narrative, the roll of the united states they've -- u states navy does not appear. yet jackson could not have won the laurels that he won without the navy. he understood the important role of the navy and subsequent generations have minimized, overlooked or forgotten that the nativy contributed to this caus. one of the reasons the navy is overlooked is because, the
narrative of the battle of new orleans, it's a land narrative, it's not a sea narrative. when we think of the navy in the early 19th century. we want to think of a sailing force, in a golden age of sale where you had 74 gun ships and they were sailing the open seas and being under full sails. that is what we wanted to think. this romantic vision, it does not fit the united states navy during this period of the early republic. in fact, the investigations of the navy during the early 19th century reveals not a fleet dominated by sea going vessels, but instead, of national flotilla of gun boats, whose duty included defending the ports and harbors and upholding domestic policy. now the gun boats of the jeffersonian era, they were not
large, or designed for blue water operations. they had several common characteristics, despite wide variations in design. they are generally 40 to 80 feet long. they are roughly 15 to 20 feet across the beam. 4-7 feet across the hull. and carried 1 or 2 large guns. 24 or 32 pounders. they were one or two masted, shallow vessels that were designed to fight in coastal waters rather than the open seas. now, the debate over what type of navy the united states would embrace intensified once thomas jefferson assumed the presidency in 1801, for jefferson and the republic an party, they felt an overwhelming need for further reduction of the national debt. production and government spending.
sounds familiar today. these embodied conflicted goals. especially since the republicans inherited a $82 million moral canker or debt from the out going administration. they wanted a naval program that satisfied fiscal concerns and prejudices concerning a military establishment. a permanent military establishment, and he wanted a navy that provided security without provoking war. yet as all presidents learn, jefferson found it impossible to satisfy everything that he wanted because congressional ideology concerning defense needs scaneed s constantly changed as demands warranted and economic concerns
became secondary to national security in times of trouble. jefferson's attitude toward the navy has been misinterpreted when compared to the pro navy ideas of john adams administration, the marked contrast in navy ideology led that jefferson's like for gun boats led by a navy official -- he did not tend to eliminate the fleet or replace it with gun boats. especially since the naval force served as such an important part of the country's defense. had jefferson been opposed to the navy and been obstinate about its defence, he would not have sent is four consecutive squadrons to restore american honor. he was not anti-navalist at all.
yet the navy that jefferson wanted was not the same his predecessors created. in an attempt to secure command of the sea and balance of sea power, the federalist created a navy department and a fleet much larger than republicans expected or wanted. yet on march 3, 1801, they were fearing strict measures, the new administration proposed federalist preserve the fleet on the books and discharged all by 45 officers and selling more than 20 vessels. ? reality, it was the fedderalist that began what anti-jeffersonians and pro navalist supporters blame on the republicans. it's true that the rationale
given by the federalists was stimulalmulated by the fear tha republicans would completely dismantle the navy, but that fear was unfounded. jefferson had no intention of eliminating the navy or converting it to a white water, or brown water or gun boat navy. the composition of the navy during jeffersonian period reflected complicated republican theories of defense. ships of the lines and frigots were necessary only if a country were protecting trade and projects offensive power. during thomas jefferson years as president, that was not the united states. it was predominantly an agricultural nation. focused on internal concerns. the country was preoccupied with
protecting their own territory. and gun boats embodied a natural political defensive response aimed at preserving the american identity. defense represented a means to that end. and while it's true that the gun boats were designed for defensive service, they also had usefulness in nontraditional roles such as revenue enforcement and suppression of piracy, and slave trade. the small naval force, passed a coastal defense, rather than controlling the seas to protect trade. he only wanted a modest blue water force to compliment fortifications and gun boats. as he understood the war was the
greatest scurge of mankind and the country had to bolt ster the defense to secure the freedom of the citizens of the country. jefferson believed that as long as the gun boats protected the coast in the manner he prescribed. these vessels escaped the possibilities of potential conflict. he explained in a special message to congress, that the craft was not the only defense, nor would they replace a navy. they were proposed merely for defensive operations and move importantly he declared that the nation nation's defenses should consist of other vessels.
this message did not truly do justice to what he wanted or to his defense doctrine. all implements called for in the plan, made no reference to a sea going with navy at all. the jeffersonian system, formed piecemeal attempted to create a balanced force for defense. it included not only a navy of sea going ships, and gun boats, but also a system of coastal and harbor fortifications, stretching from maine in the north to louisiana in the south. to supement the system of fortifications, jefferson wanted land batteries. furnished with heavy cannons and mortars, and even though he felt it would not defeat a fleet, but it would do much to prevent port towns from being damaged. he believed that the stationary
land batteries stalled an enemy's approach and provided a more defensible position. for locations that did not warrant a fixed battery or a fort, jefferson advocated the use of moveable artillery. i know you are not thinking i'm getting to the battle of new orleans. stick with me for a moment. he wanted moveable artillery, consisting of heavy cannons. he argued that cannons and mortars could drive a vessel back to sea. and in addition to these weapons, they could be linked to sea port towns and a malitia trained in their use, thus perpetuating the militia tradition and limiting the cost for the federal government. floating batteries would serve as an important part of the
maritime defense. cannons on floating batteries, stationed to prevent an enemy from entering or penetrating a harbor or driving them out once they had arrived could create difficulties for an attacker. jefferson believed that cannons, mortar or rockets, or anything that could destroy a ship, would block the entrance to the harbor and force the opponent to expend valuable resources before removing their threat. this limited the resources that the enemy could bring to bear on the port. other statements illustrate that jefferson did not necessarily, his theory of defense did not necessarily exclude a sea-going navy. he believed that the country needed sea-going ingi vessels t harass enemy vessels.
>> jefferson said that briggs and skooners should be free to cruise, especially in time of war, because they could serve as a disruptive factor, yeah, but we see what happens. friggots represented another feature of the sailing force. he insisted that the country needed the wooden walls of the mistic leaves and that it would compliment the koefcoastal vess and half-heartedly remarked that building ships of the line, should not be lost sight of, for as he understood, a sea going squadron, properly composed, was necessary to he prevent the block aiding of our ports and -- permit american commerce to sail the seas. and jefferson acknowledged that the construction of larger vessels depended on approval.
rather than action he alone could take. this was apparent in early 1806 when congress overwhelmingly defeated building the ships. this was a classic example of the functioning of the american policy. in a comprehensive way, it embodies a military program aimed at upholding broader governmental decisions. the initiative had popular support, never the less, many navalists opposed the craft. fedderalists and navalists
alike, called them the whirlygigs or calling them jefferson boats or jeffs. or the visionary ideas of an anti-naval president. and in fact, some critics were quick to point out the debacle of gun boat number one. these vessels are numbered instead of named. and in september, 1804, it was blown ashore in to a georgia corn field by a hurricane and critics said, well, if our gun boats are no use on the water they may as well be the best on earth. well, maybe they were. but despite the opposition, congress still implemented the program. and this occurred because congress embroiled in the much larger navalist, anti-navalist debate, and convinced of the
political considerations of the gun boats, concluded that if the craft were unquestionably, and they were unquestionably naval vessels and satisfied those with the ideas of large permanent standing flotillas, the war of 1812, provides an opportunity for us to look at the gun boats. and most of us realize that the gun boats do not perform too well during the war. especially along the atlantic seaboa seaboard. however, the war of 1812 also resulted in a number of other setbacks and failures. including the failed 1812 u.s. army invasion of canada. the indecisive military tug of war over the niagra peninsula,
and the inability of the gun boats to prevent destructive forces. and don't forget that the british burned the u.s. capitol. so, there were a number of set-backs. now, despite the set-backs and losses. the war concluded on a positive note. and that positive note reshape today the american perception of the conflict. that positive note was, the battle of new orleans. in fact, naval and military operations at new orleans in december 1814, and in january of 1815, represented the victory of american values over british hautiness and in doing so, it highlighted how multi-facetted, how republican, little r republican, multiple-faceted
republican defense resulted in a strategic victory. if you know anything about new orleans or the crescent city, it's kind of hard to get to. i mean, it is a -- it commands the great mississippi watershed and it's geography literally guaranteed an american victory. sitting 150 miles from the mouth of the river, the city was and still is today surrounded by swamps, marshes, shallow lakes, and bayous. thus, access to new orleans was im practical except by water. master commander, daniel todd patterson, commanding the new orleans flotilla at the time of the battle, found his defensive preparations exposed the city to
several possible water routes of attack. and he listed them off. he said, there's barataria bay, bayou lafourche and the mississippi river itself. and three routes via lake borgne. so, bayou lafourche, it's a narrow, deep stream, running from the mississippi river, to the -- barataria bay. further to the south, 70 miles west of the mouth of the mississippi river, with numerous channels running north to the river and across from new orleans, this also appeared as a
possible route, but it too was unfeesable unless the british procured experienced pilots, familiar with the narrow shallow passages, and in fact, during september, 1814, the british had approached the famed privateer or priority, john lafitte, and his barataria associates to ask for their help. and lafitte and his baratarian associates offered his help to the americans and ultimately chose to join andrew jackson instead. so that route was not feasible, small streams running almost from the english turn and emptying in the gulf of next were winding, narrow and easily defended. what about the main channel of the mississippi river? it provided a possible
alternative given hindsight, may have been the best route that the british could have taken. the river was the only option where deep water ships could be used. but even so, the shallow mouth of the mississippi river denied access to the largest ships of the line. a strong current provided another obstacle. forcing the vessels to make a long beat upstream. leaving them exposed to fire from the rivers' banks. since this was the most visible route of attack, fort saint phillips had been constructed about about 30 miles from the river's mouth and fort saint leon, 70 miles upstream. more over, saint leon, commanded an s-haped turn where sailing vessels had to with wait for a change in wind before going
upstream. while possible to sail upstream, the time spent waiting for favorable winds would leave a ship exposed to attack. it was not much of an option. commander patterson, as well as the flotilla commanders that pro seeded him, understood the importance of the river and planned for such an attack. in fact, david porter, who commanded the station from 1808 to 1810, designed the unique vessels called gun rafts to be outfitted with both ores and sails and to be armed with one heavy gun. they would supplement the gun boats that jefferson intended for new orleans. they serve much as jefferson's floating batteries. yet, those craft were not
constructed. a more ambitious project gun during john shaw, captain john shaw's second tenure as commander of the station. he began building what he called a block ship or a floating barge, 148 feet and linked 42 feet in beam, and that would only drew 6-1/2 feet of water. it would have permanented the size of this vessel, it could have carried 26-32 pounders, or as many guns as a small frigget, such, shaw argued that it was better calculated to defend the waters than all the 40s and batteries erected for the defense of the country. even louisiana's governor. william cc clayborn had agreed that charging a block ship and a few gun boats could be a formidable defense for the lakes
and two block ships on the mississippi would give greater security than any other defense than we could erect. well, why didn't we build a block ship? secretary of the navy williams jones believed the project to be a waste of money and he decided in early 1814 to discontinue construction of the vessel. oh, had the block ship been built. when daniel patterson replaced shaw as kbhacommander in octobe 1813, he found the station undefended. the approaches by water to the city are so many, that it requires many vessels and officers to guard them effectively and he had neither. and the station was short of men and vessels and supplies always, and this lack of resources forced patterson to usual the means at his disposal to prevent the invasion, which he believed to be imminent.
working in cooperation with the two 40s on the mississippi and shore batteries, patterson planned to use a converted merchant sloop, the louisiana and the scooner carolina on the ms.s to confront an enemy along that water route. gun boats would support port saint phillips. yet, patterson would position most of his gun boats to the east of new orleans on the estuaries and the water avenues that led to the city. so, considering the viable options, and the defensive measures by patterson, lake borgne became the most feesible alternate for british attack.
besides, there were three possible approaches through lake born. the first was through lake pontchartrain. this -- this was -- this avenue combined with the bayou st. john would have permitted the english to move by water within two miles of new orleans. but this route needed many light shall draft vessels, which the british had problems cusecuring. the second alternative was through lake borgne through the plain of gentillie, so, from there, british troops could use the chef menteur road.
any pitch battle there would have permitted jackson's troops to do fall back and form lines of defense further in the city. the route that the british chose ultimately called for using the bayou that drained the area east of new orleans and stretched from lake borgne to within one mile of the mississippi river. from there, british troops could proceed north, nine miles along the levy, a narrow strip true the sugar plantation toward new orleans. while this approach appeared to be the path of least resistance, it too was fr aaught with obstacles. it was more narrow than expected. furthermore, the distance from
cat island where they were anchored to the bayou, stretched 62 miles and it took 36 hours of hard rowing to reach. yet, according to the british, perhaps the most serious obstac obstacle, british mid ship man who was there at the assault said the most serious obstacle was five american gun boats of great strength that commanded the waters. in fact, patterson had sent lieutenant thomas catesby jones. jones' seven vessel floatilla had 27 men. he had simple instructions. wait for the enemy outside between ship island and cat
island and confront british barges and small boats unless assaulted by a superior force and if attacked, withdraw. to the protection of land battery at the fort. the rigolets was to be jones' last line of defense, where he should sink the enemy or be sunk. british admiral alexander cochrane ordered his barges to advance the american gun boats on december 1814 and jones responded in like kind, by sending the sea horse to destroy channel markers. by 2:00, the british barges had secured the pass christian. as they continued westward towards jones' boats. a strong westerly wind blowing for several days had reduced the lakes depth, leaving american
gun boats grounded. jones ordered his men to throw everything overboard. and by 3:30 that afternoon, the tide commenced permitting his gun boats to continue their western retreat. otherwise, all jones could do was watch as the british inched closer. jones continued his westward retreat until about 1:00 a.m. on the morning of december 14th. when the winds finally died, the tide changed and the gun boats ran aground. at dawn's early light, a little play on words there, at dawn's early light, jones saw in the distance as the british force steadily advanced. he watched them row hard and
closing fast. the lack of wind combined with a strong eastward ebb tide, forced him to be in a line of a breast formation, prepared to give the enemy a warm reception. yet while jones wanted to concentrate his vessels together, two vessels, flagship 156 and gun boat 163 were driven about 100 yards ahead of the other three gun boats. leaving them exposed in the center of the american line. and at about 9:30 that morning. british barges overwhelmed the alligator. 30 minutes later, captain niclas lockyer ordered his troops to take breakfast after a half hour breakfast, they continued their assault back against jones.
and jones' vessel would become the first to face the british attack. as the enemy approached, jones koupted 42 barges armed with like carronades. jones had 183 aboard his ship now. at 10:39 a.m., the before it barges became within cannon fire of his long guns and for ten minutes, jones' vessels threw led in to the approaching enemy. by 10:50, smaller british guns now within range began returning fire and jones noted the action became general and destructive on both sides. lieutenant jones had instructed his sailors to mount their boarding nets, and shortly before noon, three british barges tried unsuccessfully to board his flag ship.
jones sailors killed and wounded nearly every enemy officer and sinking 2 of the 3 british barges, and as jones recalled, the unfortunate enemy barely escaped drowning. clinging on to the capsized barges until other vessels came to their aid. after a spirited fight the rescuing boats were also driven back. jones was wounded in the left shoulder when a musket ball penetrated and knocked him to the ground or to the deck. as he fell to the deck, several others passed through his clothes and jones continued screaming out orders until he fainted covered with blood. a few minutes later, the battle had ended. as the british boarded his vessel. later when jones wrote his report, he claimed that british
had lost 18 killed, while americans aboard number 156 were far less than that. after capturing jones' vessel, the british turned it against the others and one by one, they too succombed. it was the turning point of the battle of lake borgne, yet the victory did not occur without great loss. when jones wrote his report, he asserted that the british forces had been staggering, whereas british reported only 17 killed and 77 wounded. meanwhile, american casualties for the entire squadron amounted to only six killed and 35 wounded. the battle of lake borgne had been a costly tactical defeat for the united states because it allow today british to choose their point of attack against
jackson in new orleans. after defeating the americans ' vessels in lake borgne, they traversed the almost 70 miles to arrive on the mississippi river levy. british sailors had rode boats, to the canal and then you had engineers and sappers hacking through cane fields and began clearing paths for the army to advance, dragging barges through the swamps. when the british army finally reached the shores of the mississippi river. that began a two week campaign for new orleans, culmanating with the january 8th, 1815 battle. daniel todd patterson who was
back in new orleans, he used his sloop and scooner and these naval vessels contributed greatly to andrew jackson's defense at chalmette. during the night fighting of december 23rd. both vessels, the carolina and the louisiana, sailed down river to fire on the british left flank. four days later, and the fact that the british saw how destructive the vessels were actually, they began firing on the american ships and four days later, hot shot struck the scooner, carolina, anchored on the west side of the river. the fire quickly engulfed the scooner and it exploded with no one being wounded. on december 28th, when british forces tested jackson's defenses at chalmette, for seven hours, sloop louisiana maintained a
tremendous and well directed fire. that broke the attacking columns and then silenced british artillery. two days later, the british began a concentrated artillery barrage, trying to damage jackson's lines. they accomplished neither. thankfully, because of the louisiana. >> during the fateful and climactic battle on january the 8th. louisiana was anchored to the right of the american position and it's guns insulated british lines as they advanced against jackson's infringed army. the resulting badge in chalmette was a british disaster. the navy's role during the battle of new orleans, generally obscured and overlooked because jackson's land forces inflicted
such staggering damage on the british, yet the navy is central to this narrative t role the gun boats played in defending new orleans was characteristic of the intended purposes within jefferson's multi-facetted defense. gun boats represented one part of an overall system. and in this system, they were well-suited for the intended task. because of the fortified river and the risks that the british would have to endure through the numerous bayous, lake borgne became the most viable route for the invasion. daniel todd patterson had positioned on lake borgne five shallow draft gun boats. with armaments that made them daeng russ to anything under a 50 gun ship. therefore the british believed that the formidable flotilla had
to be considered a serious threat and captured or destroyed. the capture of the ships on lake borgne was considered a loss that rendered a very dear advantage to the british foe, by enabling them to choose their point of attack. it has been called an american disaster, which could have brought defeat to a commander with less fortitude than andrew jackson. others have claimed that thomas ap catesby jones sacrificed his small flotilla to gain much needed time for jackson's defenses at chalmette. while it's true that the capture of the gun boats represented an american tactical set back, it did contribute to a larger strategic victory. lieutenant jones and his fellow american prisoners helped in that american victory. they provided faulty information
about jackson's troops, and their locations, which, forced the british to waste time before they attacked jackson's position. now, it's true that the gun boats did not win the engagement on lake borgne. i tell my students all the time, that when we are talking about engagements, or we are talking about events, a revolution is generally successful. a revoelt -- a revolt is generally not successful. that is how the terminology explains it. in this case, it was a lot, a loss is a loss on lake borgne. they did not prevent the battle of new orleans from being fought, yet, had 20 of the vessels been on lake borgne, as had been called for by the navy department, the british may have never been able to cross lake borgne. but because of hurricanes, tornadoes, decay, and the navy
department's unwillingness to dispatch more craft to new orleans, the american flotilla only had five of the vessels in service on the lake when the british began their assault. had these vessels been equipped with ores, had been ordered by the secretary of the navy, british barges would most likely not been able to catch the american gun boats. some of have argued had that block ship been built than the british would not have tried to attack the flotilla. well, none of these were the case. so, there are valid reasons to condemn the jeffersonian gun boat program, no doubt. it can be viewed as a failure in light of the original conception as to how the vessels would be integrated into the nation's defense. on the other hand, the craft do not and did not inspire confidence from the commanders or crew, or from some people.
nonetheless, the battle of new orleans provides the best example of jefferson's concepts of defense, fort, smaller sea-going vessels, stationary and moveable floating artillery were all positioned river. to guard the most obvious routes of attack. patterson stationed the gunboats in the shoals to the east of the city where they could be most useful. the hardened and determined jackson cobbled together a group of militia, native american, lawless privatiers and pirates and a handful of regular u.s. soldiers. jackson's rag-tag defense used the advantages of louisiana's terrain to provide an effective defensive line for new orleans. the dogged american resistance forced the british to sacrifice viable resources, precious time
as well as the element of surprise. american naval historians and politicians alike have disregarded important lessons that could have been learned from jefferson's gunboat navy. history has declared them to be an abberation that provided no benefits and the country thereafter moved towards larger and more advanced technological machines under the belief that bigger is better. yet throughout the 19th and 20th century, jefferson's vision has reemerged in new forms adapted to then-current technology. during the 19th century we saw small, shellow-draft vessels being used in the seminole wars, the caribbean to fight piracy. >> one secretary of the navy proposed using small shallow-draft steam gunboats to
defend american harbors. especially those in the gulf of mexico area. shallow-draft rivering vessels helped shape the outcome of the american civil war and during the 20th century we've seen shallow, small shallow-draft vessels play useful contributive roles in world war ii and vietnam, even. the 21st century has witnessed new lessons about large sea-going vessels whether in sea or restrictive waters. the 21st century has seen this sea change occurring. chief of naval operations admiral verne clark acknowledged in january 2005 that the era of climactic naval engagements has long passed. and that building a floating force only to deal with major
combat operations represents faulty logic. the maheniag of blue water ships and control of the seas appears to be giving way to an age of literal warfare. >> so why there are valid reasons, generally ridiculed few have acknowledged that the small craft had any capabilities, then or today, thomas jefferson's 1807 comment to revolutionary idealogue proclaiming that gunboats are the only water defense which can be useful to us and protect us from the ruinous folly of a navy it doesn't really represent what jefferson believed in. it did not truly represent the dichotomy between blue water and brown water vessels or between defending the nation's shores or
controlling the sea lanes. for the pragmatic politician jefferson, this statement more accurately represents the one end, rather than the two possible choices. the one end being the freedom and security of his united states. the battle of new orleans truly describes for the age of jefferson, as well as for ours, the value of brown water and blue water vessels working in conjunction with other defenses, defensive forces and this is a lesson truly relevant in any age. thank you. now i was told that i would be up here to answer questions. so if you make up questions, i'll make up answers. >> i know that some midshipmen
good evening dr. smith, steven arsenio, did the mississippi river levee system ever play a role in defending the city of new orleans by blocking access via small waterways that linked to the river? >> you've got to keep in mind there's a levee system since the 18th century and the levees we see now in new orleans were not the levees of the 18th and 19th century. those levees are easily breached. during the battle of new orleans, during the campaign for new orleans, andrew jackson breech breached the levee in two places to flood the battlefield in front of the british.
what dot british do? they go back and fill in the breaches in the levee. the levee does play a role, but it's not going to be a determinative factor. >> other questions? >> so really about just overall ports in new orleans -- >> you think it's important? >> oh yeah. >> well for america's sake. i mean, what did you view the importance of new orleans? i mean i see it as a really reluctance to prevent the british from getting a foothold in america again. >> you don't want the british to be successful. new orleans controls the interior of north america because it's the, controls the waterway. the great mississippi water
shedd. so if you lose control of numbers, you lose the transportation, the communication access, between the appalachian mountains and the rocky mountains. you cannot lose control of it. that's one of the reasons during the american civil war, porters gun boats take it in the spring of '62. it cuts the confederacy in half. well the british believe if they're able to take new orleans, that's going to give them the opportunity to link up new orleans through the mississippi water shedd, through the ohio water shed to their canadian kolcy in the north. by doing so, they've created a british arc to the west of the american states, which would limit further growth and american expansion. >> thanks.
>> why were the individuals who fought in the battle of new orleans so unwilling to recognize the importance of gun boats and commit themselves to this larger, more sea-going navy. >> what caused the anti-navalist debate? >> yes. >> for republicans it's a two-fold question. you know, it's one question about the professionals, the idea of a professional military force. there's a longstanding belief that militiamen, the famed militiamen at lexington and concord, that stood on the village green, that that was the ideal version of an american fighting force. these were the people who had the most to lose. they would go grab their musket off the heart and stand there to confront the enemy. if they lost, they could lose their homes, their families. i mean there was so much they
had to lose. well, by using that kind of untrained, unprofessional military force, you are cutting your expenses. and you're also creating a defensive force that you don't have to worry about as creating potentially a coup d'etat. an untrained, unprofessional military force they have more to-foot for. they're not going to overthrow the government or try to overthrow the government. and then, there's the money side of it. you know, when jefferson becomes president, he's, the republicans inherit the $82 million debt, that was like an albatross around his neck. he was convinced, if you don't pay that debt off, you're never going to get out from under this, this oppressive system of taxation. and if i'm not mistaken, he had
plans to pay off the debt about 1808, 1809, and then all of a sudden, he buys louisiana and that throws that out the window. >> this dual, this dual concern over physical or money concerns, and this other question about professional military forces -- >> sir, i know we spoke about, about in class how -- lafayette -- >> john lafitte? >> yes, sir, jean lafitte. >> what kept him at this time acting against the americans. you said in class how he eventually switched and would attack the americans. >> yeah, yeah, jean lafitte, if you've ever seen the movie "the buccaneer" and yul brenner
playing jean lafitte. it just doesn't make sense to me. jean lafitte doesn't look like this swarthy charismatic pirate, privatier character. lafitte and his associates had been causing grief for the u.s. government in louisiana waters since 1805. they had been privatiering and pirating and running slaves and selling contraband. i mean -- at one point lafitte's associates have a runninging gun battle with the u.s. customs service. they are generally, everyone likes to call them the privatiers. they're really just kind of lawless pirates. so here's an opportunity, as the, as the battle has, as new orleans is becoming the focus of british attentions, and in september, they send nicholas
lockier over. he arrives and tries to make a deal with lafitte. he says we'll offer you a pardon. because yeah he's even been seizing british ships, we'll offer you a pardon. we'll give you a captaincy in the british army. all tough do is side with us. well, he's thinking about that. but his brother, a guy named dominick yu, or pierre lafitte, that's what we generally know him as, his brother's in jail in new orleans. so what do you think he does? he goes to new orleans and says hey, i've got a british offer. i'm willing to help the americans. you think that might get pierre out of jail? and it does get pierre out of jail. now really what makes it so interesting, that he joins with the americans, when jackson arrived in new orleans in early december, 1814, jackson has nothing. i mean he's trying to cobble
together anything. and governor claiborne says you need to talk to la feet brothers about them potentially joining with us. and jackson says, you know i'm not going to talk to that hellish bandit. he calls him nothing but pirates and rabble-rousers and trouble makers. and then he heard they have powder and shot and flint. maybe i'll talk to them. and in fact, within two weeks he's bringing them into the american fold. and i'm convinced it's the associates that turn the battle. they've got trained artillerymen. they had been serving on privatier ships for a decade. they had been firing guns, they could handle the cannon. otherwise jackson had no trained artillerymen. it's the associates there at chaumette that are firing the cannons and providing the powder, the shot and the flints. the flints most importantly. so the fact that lafitte and his
guys joined, i think what's beautiful about it, they joined and they get their pardon. jackson grants them a pardon. it's confirmed by president madison, and then once the battle is over, they go back to their lawless ways. in fact he's got a friend, lafitte's got a friend who was jackson's principal engineer at the battle of new orleans, a guy named la tour. and this guy had been in new orleans since about 1803, 1804. jackson needed trained engineers, he brought la tour in, la tour is the guy who designed the defenses at chaumette. with the ditch and the rampart. and they took the cotton balls and created the defensive -- >> they did use cotton bells, but they put hem down into the mud, and used them as a stable firing platform. now after the battle, jackson
dismisses the army. so lafitte, he's unemployed now, he goes back to his pirate ways. la tour is unemployed now. so la tour decides he's going to be an agent for the spanish. he and la feafitte go on a survg expression, an gold exam expedition. there are some gold fields in arkansas. they go up into arkansas, they look for gold. and then they make a trek all the way to santa fe. and la tour draws this detailed map. he writes about a 40-page report and gives it to the spanish attendant in cuba and the vice roy of mexico and he tells the spanish, you guys better do something. because the americans are flooding into arkansas now. and it's only a matter of time before they're going to be, as he says, pouring into texas. he hits the nail on the head on that one. and in fact, he says the great
architect of this plan, pushing these americans into the southwest and seizing spanish land. the great architect, he says, is thomas jefferson. the man who didn't want war. the pacifist. well, the viceroy of mexico, they submit the reports to the provincial governs, and they say, we know this is happening, you're not giving us troops, there's not much we can do about it. that's kind of the next part of the story. lafitte and his associates. other questions? >> apparently i've been yanked.
>> i was curious about your take on british command and control. once they arrive in theater, relationship between cochran and military leadership and maybe more specifically, what's cochran's role in how things ultimately turn out? >> well i tell you, what really happens is, you know, cochran is the one who devises the plan. robert wallace was supposed to command this expedition. when he dies at north point, just outside of baltimore, there's a guy famed william thornton, who is his colonel thornton. who is his second in command and thornton is convinced he's going to get command and he's planning to be the commander of the new orleans expedition. well all of a sudden packingham and his core of cronies show up. and thornton is just mad as hell
about this. now thornton gets command of the attack on the west bank. and the west bank operation runs, if not, it runs as smooth as can be expected. it's slower than anticipated. but they do have appreciable results on the west bank. when packingham forced, you know basically looks at the situation he is given, i don't know if you've ever been to chaumette, it's a classic location for a battle. you can walk from one end to the battlefield to the other in five minutes. hopefully 300 to 400, the american right is the river. on the american left is a cypress swamp. it was literally impenetrable. you had a 500-yard wide battlefield. and what can you do with that?
packingham decides okay, we'll make a frontal assault. now there is some debate over why it doesn't, why it does not succeed. most of the blame is thrown on the shoulders of a guy named colonel thomas mullens. he was supposed to bring up the ladders. and they didn't show up in time. when the british ranks get to the american lines, they're just being mowed down. there's no way to get across the earthen rampart. and then after the battle is over, you know, packingham body is put in a barrel of rum and sent back to the fleet. you know, cochran is saying you know, it wasn't my fault, i got you guys there. this is what you guys did. there's a huge debate between senior army officers and senior naval officers saying you're the one to blame. the relationship is strained at
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